As far as fashion weeks go, New York’s edition isn’t exactly known for pushing the envelopes of fashion design. Sure, stalwarts such as Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford can be relied on to organise spectaculars that display their knack for showmanship, while brands the likes of 3.1 Phillip Lim and Proenza Schouler have been putting their own spin on what Made-in-America fashion should look like. Regardless, fashion insiders often consider the city lacking in terms of cutting-edge designs when compared to its counterparts like Milan and Paris.
In recent seasons, however, there has been a notable shift. A new generation of up-and-coming designers are now giving the Big Apple’s fashion scene extra bite. In a post-Trump era, they’re now championing diversity and exploring the notion of identity through their lauded collections. Female highlights three brands that have made an impression this season.
Japanese designer Tomo Koizumi became was New York’s breakout star when pictures of his candy-coloured, OTT ruffled confections went viral on Instagram last season. He had achieved the feat when super stylist Katie Grand invited him over to New York to present his collection. Grand enlisted the industry’s biggest names to pull off the show—Marc Jacobs offered his Madison Avenue store as venue, while Pat McGrath and Guido Palau offered to paint the models’ faces and tease their hair for free. Models of the moment such as the Hadid sisters walked alongside veterans Karen Elson and Joan Smalls.
It was a splashy debut that’d be hard to match, but the Tokyo-based designer managed a sophomore outing that built on the momentum of the first. Koizumi roped in trans model Ariel Nicholson to put on an interpretive performance in which she slid in and out of the seven dresses he’d created for the season. The outfits, each one crafted from hundreds of metres of fabric and more outré than the last, reiterated Koizumi’s penchant for the dramatic.
Cate Holstein launched Khaite in 2016 with the singular aim of designing American sportswear without the pretensions. Over the course of the next three years, Khaite garnered a loyal following among women who’d taken to her well-designed and functional pieces. Spotted on the backs of stars such as Lily Aldridge (and most recently) Katie Holmes, Khaite’s reputation as the go-to for a new generation of working women grew.
For the spring/summer 2020 season, Holstein notched up the sensuality of her clothes with sarong-like skirts and sheer dresses. She also threw checks and plaids into the mix, but dusted away their fusty connotations with bulbous sleeves and contrasting the fabrics with tulle.
Kerby Jean-Richmond brought the fashion set to Kings Theatre in Brooklyn and staged a rousing runway show that honoured his African American heritage. The last in a trilogy that sought to examine the exclusion of African American narratives, the spring/summer 2020 show paid tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a black musician whose contributions to rock and roll music have been largely missing from the annals of music.
As a choir belted out songs by black music artistes, Jean-Richmond showed a repertoire of cool biker jackets and slinky dresses worthy of a rock star. In another ingenious move, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner and artistic director at Reebok crafted necklaces strung from beads in the likeness of Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu.